Dumb question: what’s better for your brand? Buying a Super Bowl ad or investing in social media?
Believe it or not, that was the essential question asked on Friday in AdAge’s CMO blog by academic marketing heavyweights Tim Calkins and Derek Rucker. Read it here: Will Social Media Slay the Super Bowl? Beg to Differ would have given it a different title: “Will Apples-to-Oranges Comparisons Lead to Poor Sales of Garbage-Bag-Branded Children’s Dishes?”
What the heck are you talking about?!?
Calkins and Rucker start by saying that many big brands, like Ford, are abandoning Super Bowl advertising in favour of a broader mix of media, including the spectrum of social media tools. They quote Jim Farley, Ford’s global marketing chief, as saying:
“Social media is a better investment for known and established brands. Farley explained in a recent interview: “Customers are spending as much time with the mobile smartphone or online as they are watching TV now, so our advertising dollars have to flow to where the people are.”
“Unfortunately, social media fails to guarantee that brands will reach a large number of consumers. A look at the social-media presence of many well-known brands makes the point. The Hefty brand waste bags’ Facebook page has only 66,000 fans. Windex has fewer than 3,000 fans and the Hampton Inn page has less than 2,000 fans on Facebook.”
So yeah, if you play the “reach” numbers game, those numbers seem pretty paltry when you compare them to the estimated 100 Million or more viewers who are said to watch the Super Bowl every year in the States – and the fact that the ads are now no longer on the sidelines on Super Sunday, but have taken centre field. So point made: if your company can afford to play in the “big leagues” the Super Bowl is a venue you should consider. But can you justify a decision to sit this one out as Ford did?
Let’s talk Hefty
Heck, the team at Hefty even got more than 26,000 people to “Like” what I consider to be the one of the worst cross-branding initiatives since Colgate Shaving Cream in a toothpaste tube, the Hefty ZooPals: http://www.facebook.com/Hefty.ZooPals That’s right, your kids can now enjoy their dinner from Garbage Bag branded dishes with happy smiling animals… would you like a twist tie with that?
Compare that to all those multi-million dollar Super Bowl ads that are completely forgettable (yeah. I’m looking at you BMW diesel-bashing ad) tone-dead and offensive (ahem Groupon) or hugely expensive but hampered by a brain-dead concept, a dumb brand name, and lob-ball attempts at buzz generation (hey HomeAway.com – ever hear of Pets.com?) – none of which ever got enough actual real-world response to fill a Ziploc sandwich baggy.
Which brings us back to the question
The biggest problem with Calkins and Rucker is that while they pay some lip service to social media, they’re showing up to a modern game in a leather helmet. They see the world backwards. They advise advertisers to first “capitalize on the power of PR” (by which they mean the traditional “engage the (old) media” kind). Then think about creative. And only lastly do they refer to social media as a as a “flanking strategy”.
But what Ford and other advertisers are realizing, is that social media has crossed the threshold from being the last thing you think about to being the FIRST thing you need to consider, and to build any old-media campaigns around the response you want to generate.
That’s why the biggest advertising winner on Super Sunday, VW released its ad on YouTube with a well-coordinated campaign well before Super Sunday and already had 7 million clicks before game-time. Or why companies like Network Solutions released Web-only video campaigns to attempt to steal the thunder of established Super Bowl ad hawkers like GoDaddy who in turn try to drive traffic to specific Web-only content that lets them continue the conversation on their own home field.